What if we actually believed that life begins at conception?

[Trigger warning: Abortion.]

“Life begins at conception.” The classic refrain forms the cornerstone of the pro-life ethic, which at its best seeks to extend basic human rights to those who have the least power to claim them themselves, the unborn. The principle enjoys broad popularity when pollsters ask; YouGov found in 2015 that 52% of Americans believed it (as opposed to “when the fetus is able to live outside the womb” or “at birth”). There’s a certain elegance to it: Along the complex and awe-inspiring journey of human development, a natural starting point would be that first biological step.

But I don’t think that nearly that many people actually believe it.

To explain why, I’d like to describe some of the most surprising features of a world where we treated every fertilized egg as a human being worthy of the same rights as the rest of us, someone we could empathize with, a playable character in this video game of life. Under that ethic, how would we think, act and feel differently?

Read more of this post

Crucify Him!

Good Friday. The tragedy at the climax of the gospels that none of the characters come out of looking good. The somber holiday that brings us face-to-face with the ugliest parts of our common humanity.

I have long cherished this holiday as an opportunity to reflect on my own individual sins and sorrows, the ways that my own behavior reflects Judas or Pilate or Peter. But this year, I find myself noticing the communal aspects of the story, the ways that our collective behavior reflects that of the chief priests or the soldiers or the crowd.

Read more of this post

Why I Got Into Cooking

Last Thursday, I had the fortunate coincidence of being visited by two of my best friends from college, Timothy Johnson and Peter Ngo. They had both been to Boston back in June 2016 to serve as groomsmen in my wedding, but I hadn’t seen them since. Their trips were independent, but happened to overlap on Thursday, which also happened to be the best day for them to visit me and Grace.

With both of them visiting, along with Tim’s girlfriend Xiao, Grace and I decided to host them at our apartment and make a whole feast of Indian food. We had just recently learned how to make Chicken Tikka Masala, Palak Paneer, Aloo Gobi, and Chicken Tandoori, and we decided to serve all four to them, employing all three of them in the kitchen chopping vegetables and measuring spices.

John Shen, another college friend of ours (and Peter’s host) joined us as well, and he remarked after dinner that he was somewhat surprised that I had gotten excited about cooking. Reflecting, I realized that in the moment, cooking four dishes of Indian food, while more than usual, seemed like just a natural extension of the habits Grace and I had built up over the course of a year. We would actually go on to cook Pad Thai and bake bread for our board game group on Saturday and then turn around and make enchiladas for some of the Et Spiritus journal club team on Sunday. Cooking for three different groups of friends in four nights was certainly beyond our usual pace (and not exactly sustainable), but not by much. It’s worlds from where I was at the beginning of grad school.

So how did we get to this point? Let me walk through some of the factors and explain a bit of our philosophy behind cooking and hosting.

Read more of this post

What Should I Wear Today?

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! You finally decided to turn off your alarm and get out of bed. As you groggily get dressed, you face your first decision: What should I wear today? If you’re a guy like me, your answer often is “whatever is on the top of my stack of clothes.” (Hopefully that stack is at least folded!) But in places like Boston in April, you face an additional problem: Which stack? Do you go with a long sleeved shirt or a t-shirt? Pants or shorts? As you get ready to head out, do you wear a coat, a jacket, or neither? Do you bring an umbrella, sunglasses, or neither?

So you start checking a weather forecast. You learn that the high today is going to be, say, 54, with a low of 36 at night. What in the world is that supposed to mean? Are you supposed to memorize what to wear for every set of high and low temperatures so that you can recall it while you stumble out of bed in the morning? Besides, do the highs and lows even matter? What if you’re not going to be outside at 2pm or 3am or whenever those extremes will be?

You eventually give up and decide to move to California, where the weather is predictable and you don’t have to make such complicated decisions. Sad!

Read more of this post

Why I Didn’t Do Research In Your Area

[Note: This is a followup to my post last week about lessons I’ve learned in graduate school. The format is inspired by Tim Challies.]

Friend,

Your field of research definitely sounds interesting. I really enjoyed taking that class, listening to that seminar talk, or reading a few of your most recent papers. I actually understood most of what you were talking about! Some of the techniques are quite clever, and you and your collaborators all seem really friendly.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t end up joining you there. And you’re right to wonder — it would have been nice to collaborate with you, and I haven’t exactly found something else revolutionary to study instead. Well, it’s mostly because…

Read more of this post